KANSAS CITY – Most people thought Liberty, Park Hill and Staley would dominate the Class 4 District 4 Wrestling Championships, and that’s exactly what happened.
As expected, those three state-ranked programs placed one-two-three in the final team standings with top-rated Liberty finishing at the peak of the district mountain for the first time since 2002. The trio combined for 24 of the 28 district finalists – 10 for Liberty, eight for Park Hill and six for Staley – and together accounted for 32 of the 56 individual state-qualifiers at the two-day meet that took place Friday, Feb. 8, and Saturday, Feb. 9, at Oak Park High School.
Liberty, ranked No. 1 in MissouriWrestling.com’s state poll most of the season, took over the lead in the team standings during the semifinal round of the tournament with 10 of 12 wrestlers winning their matches and advancing to the championship bouts of their respective weight classes. From there, the Blue Jays never looked back and captured the team’s first district title in 17 years: so long ago that most of the wrestlers on the team themselves weren’t even born the last time it happened.
“I’ve looked up at the banner hanging in the gym a few times, and I’m not really happy with what I see,” Liberty sophomore and 138-pound district champion Kage Lenger said. “I’m glad we made the climb to the top, and now that we’re going to put this year up there on the wall.”
A full team effort proved to be the key for the Blue Jays as they racked up 244 team points. Liberty produced four district champions – Easton Hilton (106), Jeremiah Reno (113), Lenger (138) and Greyden Penner (170). Six others finished as the runner-up in their weight brackets, and one placed fourth. Even the three non-qualifiers won multiple matches and came within one victory of making the trip to the MSHSAA Wrestling Championships later this week in Columbia.
“We haven’t won a district title in a while,” Liberty head coach Dustin Brewer said. “I’m really proud of the guys. They continue to step up and wrestle well.